The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
As pointed out, unemployment among ordinary Slovaks in the east of the country is also high. Although there is little evidence of inter community tension, people are, albeit mutedly, critical of the Roma regarding them as lazy, unreliable and untrustworthy. While the Slovak press adopts a responsible line on the subject, their correspondence columns often seethe with anger over what readers consider to be favouritism shown to Roma asking why “they” can’t have fewer children and clean up their act. Their critics point out that Roma lie when they say they have to steal because they can’t afford to buy food alleging that most of the goods stolen were drink and cigarettes and that they get into debt due to the shark like interest rates imposed on them by local money lenders. Not all of these accusations are false. For example, BHHRG saw an advertisement for something called Expres Financial a money lending outfit outside the Rokoko supermarket used by Roma in Čierna nad Tisou.
Exactly four years after the so-called Rose Revolution, the two key leaders of Georgia's People Power revolution are at each other's throats.
“Georgia has made stunning progress in carrying out substantial economic, judicial and state reforms… that should allow Georgia to become a prosperous liberal market economy and a fully-fledged democracy governed by human rights and the rule of law. Georgia has set an example for the whole region and beyond.” Council of Europe reporters Matyas Eorsi & Kastriot Islami (13 September 2007)
"The style of Saakashvili’s governance … has made dishonesty, injustice and oppression a way of life. Everyday repression, demolition of houses and churches, robbery, ‘kulakization’, and murders, I would stress, murders, have become common practice for the authorities.” Ex-Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili in Tbilisi (25th September, 2007)
On Friday 2nd November, 2007, the centre of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, was occupied a huge crowd demanding the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili. It was exactly four years since Saakashvili had cried foul about Georgia’s parliamentary elections and set in train the protests which brought him to power on 23rd November, 2003.
HITS: 12725 | 19-02-2008, 15:14 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Political science, Political leaders
The economic and social implosion of Moldova since 1991 is routinely blamed on Transnistria but according to all the Western reform models promoting “shock therapy” the loss of the heavily industrial part of the country should have been pure gain for the rest of Moldova. According to the post-Communist market dogmatists industry was a handicap to prosperity and the sooner smokestacks ceased to pollute the higher the standard of living would be. Under successive governments since 1991 Moldova to the west of the Dniestr has followed the nostrums of “shock therapy” to the letter and its population has endured a catastrophic fall in its standard of living, mass emigration and the humiliation of seeking economic salvation in prostitution or the sale of body parts. It is an index of Moldova’s industrial and social collapse that it no longer buys electricity from the Transnistrian power plant which used to supply it. Despite its favourable reputation among Western “experts” as a model of economic reform and democracy, Moldova’s political system has been repeatedly criticised at home. In the run up to the re-election of Voronin’s Communists in 2004, opposition group’s made wide-ranging charges of electoral malpractice which were dropped after Voronin made publicly supportive statements about US policy and anti-Russian jibes.
HITS: 9896 | 19-02-2008, 15:07 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Political science
On 3rd March, 2006, the Ukrainian customs authorities suddenly implemented a new system of control along the 310 mile-long border (c. 5000 km) with the internationally-unrecognised republic of Transnistria (PMR). The Ukrainians announced that henceforth they would only permit goods bearing official customs stamps from the Republic of Moldova to enter Ukraine or to transit across its territory. Until 3rd March, the Ukrainian customs had accepted PMR’s customs stamps as validating goods for import into Ukraine or for transit across its territory. The effect of this sudden unilateral act was to produce a dilemma for the Transnistrian authorities in Tiraspol. Either they could accept the Ukrainian act as a fait accompli which would mean effectively transferring customs revenues to the Moldovan capital Chisinau and renouncing their economic sovereignty and therefore their self-proclaimed independence since 1990, or they could refuse to comply with the Ukrainian demands and in effect accept an embargo on their exports with all the severe economic consequences which would flow from stopping the country’s exports.
Sandwiched between Iran and Turkey close to the trans-Caucasus oil pipeline, Armenia is at a sensitive geostrategic crossroads. Will Parliamentary elections trigger another colour-coded revolution?
Parliamentary Elections Briefing Introduction
Even before Armenians went to the polls on 12th May, 2007, for parliamentary elections, the political atmosphere had become heated with accusations from the opposition and allied NGOs that the government was planning to rig the outcome while the government accused opposition leaders of treasonable behaviour. A week before the vote, the police arrested the last foreign minister of the former President Levon Ter-Petrossian accusing him of money-laundering, while the opposition countered that a prominent pro-government party leader and magnate was buying votes by funding charitable activities. Threats of mass demonstrations against President Robert Kocharian if his parliamentary allies won the elections – as opinion polls predicted – raised the spectre of another “People Power” revolution in the former Soviet Union.
The BHHRG observers visited 7 polling stations in Virpazar, Bar, Sveti Stefan and Kotor. The atmosphere between the evenly-balanced memberships of the individual election commissions was relaxed. Everywhere three pro- and three anti-independence commissioners were present. Queues were witnessed early in the day but by late afternoon the flow of voters had become a trickle. Although the members of the electoral commissions expressed no doubts about the proper conduct of the poll in their own stations, unionist members made complaints about the one-sided nature of the referendum campaign and the local media coverage of it. Shortly after voting ended at 21.00 exit polls were read out on TVCG giving victory to the ‘yes’ campaign. Leaving aside the fact that BHHRG had seen no evidence of any exit polls during 21st May, it seemed out-of-order for the Montenegrin public to receive the projected results from two NGOs – Cesid and CTD rather than from the Republican Referendum Commission. Appropriately, a list of their foreign ‘donors’ appeared on a screen behind the presenters. Immediately, the ‘Yes’ campaign started to celebrate its anticipated victory.
HITS: 2208 | 12-01-2007, 16:43 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , Politics, Political science
Montenegrin independence is supported by the leading political party, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and its allies the Social Democrats, although traditionally the issue was always associated with the small Liberal Party that has been in and out of coalition with the DPS over the past eight years. The minorities – Albanians in the south and Bosnians along the border with Bosnia Herzogovina – have also propped up Mr. Djukanovic’s governments. They, too, support independence. BHHRG visited the Albanian village of Tuzi which lies on the main highway to Albania, south of Podgorica. The road is known as a conduit for stolen cars and a steady stream of expensive Western models passed through that day. Some Montenegrins cynically point out that the Albanian and Bosnian communities which live mainly in the border areas would benefit from the smuggling opportunities resulting from internationally recognised borders with their own customs arrangements.
BHHRG visited Montenegro in the pre-referendum period to observe the conduct of the campaign. Large billboards urging people to vote ‘Da’ (Yes) were plastered all over the scruffy capital, Podgorica. It took some time to find any ‘No’ posters although there were many more in coastal areas, for example, and the north of the country. The ‘Yes’ campaign concentrated on Montenegro’s historical past and harking back to the republic’s noble ancestry, the authorities have erected large statues of the country’s last monarch, King Nikola, astride his horse - one stands in Podgorica while another was delivered to the depressed industrial town of Nikšić shortly before the poll. Apart from the daily Dan, all newspapers in Montenegro (e.g. Pobeda, Vijesti and Republika) were vocally pro-independence. Television coverage was even less diverse although the authorities claimed that independently owned Montana and Elbig TV were somehow immune from bias. The most egregious propaganda vehicle was Montenegrin state television, Television Crna Gora (TVCG). It took many forms, mostly directed to Montenegro’s brief period of independence: grainy black and white film of King Nikola, his courtiers and family was played and replayed; the new/old crimson Montengrin flag embossed with the Njegoš coat of arms fluttered above rallies of enthusiastic citizens and, members of the Academy of Sciences solemnly took possession of sets of leather bound tomes containing a recently completed history of Montenegro.
HITS: 2630 | 12-01-2007, 16:09 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , PR and human rights, Politics
After the Dayton Peace Conference ended the Bosnian war in 1995, the Western powers turned their attention to the political situation in Belgrade in the hope of toppling the Milosevic regime. A coalition of Serbian opposition forces known as Zajedno (Together) led street demonstrations for several months following disputed local elections held in November, 1996. However, by summer 1997 the chances that this group of people would overthrow the government and Milosevic, now President of Yugoslavia, evaporated in internal squabbles.
Western leaders had more success in changing the regime in the small neighbouring republic of Montenegro, by 1997 the only other entity in what remained of the Yugoslav Federation. The country’s prime minister since 1990, Milo Djukanovic, led a putsch in the governing Social Democratic Party (the successor party to the League of Yugoslav Communists and sister party of the Serbian Socialists) taking over the leadership and expelling the republic’s president, Momir Bulatovic, and his minority supporters from the party headquarters. Presidential elections were brought forward to October 1997 and Djukanovic won in the second round of voting narrowly beating Bulatovic who went on to form his own party, the Socialist People’s Party (SNP).
Independent Montenegro: Liberation or Balkanization
HITS: 2241 | 12-01-2007, 15:57 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , Elections, Political science
Montenegro's example could have far reaching consequences if others seek to emulate its successful drive to independence.
On 21st May, the people of Montenegro voted for independence by the narrow margin of 2009 votes (55.5%) in a referendum which puts the final nail in the coffin of what was Yugoslavia. Since 2003 Montenegro and Serbia have been joined in a loose federation established with the assistance of the EU and which demanded a three year moratorium before either side could choose to opt out. However, Montenegro a small country of c.620,000 has operated as a de facto independent state since the late 1990s when it broke most of its ties with and economic dependency on Serbia, even adopting the DM in 1999 and, later, the Euro in 2002. It also developed its own diplomatic relations and quasi-embassies in important foreign capitals like Brussels and Washington.